UPDATE: Passage of horse industry reforms draws praise

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UPDATE, POSTED 11 A.M. TUESDAY, DEC. 22, 2020

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – Congress has approved the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act, which was included in the year-end government funding bill that was pushed through Congress in the final hours of its session Monday night.

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The legislation now goes to President Trump’s desk to become law.

Sen. Mitch McConnell and U.S. Rep. Andy Barr, Kentucky Republicans, introduced the bipartisan legislation in September, only days after the 146th Kentucky Derby, to recognize a uniform, national standard for thoroughbred racing.

“Kentucky’s cherished horseracing traditions deserve to be protected. I’m proud the Senate agreed to my legislation to preserve our signature racing industry and the 24,000 workers who support it,” said McConnell. “With the leadership of Congressman Andy Barr and the partnership of sport leaders, horse advocates, and fans, we’re one step closer to promoting fairness and safety across Thoroughbred racing. As Majority Leader, I made this Kentucky-focused legislation a top priority in the Senate. I look forward to this major advancement for our beloved sport becoming law.”

The House of Representatives passed the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act in September led by Barr  and Paul Tonko (NY-20). U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)—Senators representing states with prominent racetracks—were original cosponsors in the Senate.

“With passage of HISA in Congress we are in the final stretch of achieving the most transformational and consequential reform of the Thoroughbred horseracing industry since enactment of the Interstate Horseracing Act of 1978,” said Barr. “For almost a decade, I have worked with industry stakeholders and my Congressional colleagues to build consensus around reforms that will protect equine athletes and strengthen confidence and international competitiveness in the sport. I am proud to champion this historic, bipartisan legislation with Congressman Paul Tonko and Leader McConnell and I look forward to President Trump signing it into law.”

In August, McConnell and Barr joined horseracing leaders in Lexington, the Horse Capital of the World, to announce an agreement years in the making to create national standards for the sport. The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority will be an independent regulatory authority, similar to other professional sports, to set medication use and safety protocols.

The bipartisan legislation has earned broad support from trainers, breeders, jockeys, and other leaders of the Thoroughbred racing industry:

“Senator McConnell’s leadership has been critical in bringing the Thoroughbred industry together and prioritizing the passage of the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act,” said Bill Carstanjen, Chief Executive Officer, Churchill Downs Incorporated. “This is a pivotal moment for the future of horseracing, a sport that will now be governed by world class, uniform standards across the United States.”

“The passage of HISA is a landmark moment for the Thoroughbred racing community’s ongoing efforts to ensure our horses are running under the safest and most transparent conditions possible and to protect the integrity of the sport for our athletes, horsemen and fans. The independent Authority established by HISA will bring a level of consistency and accountability that will improve our sport for years to come as they work to develop and implement uniform anti-doping, medication control and operational measures. Keeneland is honored to have been involved in this ground-breaking legislation,” said Keeneland President and CEO Bill Thomason jointly with President-elect Shannon Arvin.

“This marks the single most significant safety and integrity development in the history of Thoroughbred racing. This moment also demonstrates that great progress can be accomplished when the industry works together,” said Drew Fleming, President and CEO of Breeders’ Cup. “We recognize that there is more to be done and we look forward to working with our counterparts to build on this momentum and further improve the sport for generations to come.”

“I’d like to thank Senate Majority Leader McConnell for diligently focusing on getting this much-needed bill included in the must-pass Omnibus Appropriations Bill,” said Stuart S. Janney, III, Chairman of The Jockey Club. “Leader McConnell has been a powerful force when it comes to promoting and supporting the Thoroughbred industry in Kentucky and throughout the nation. With the passage of this bill, we restore confidence with our fans that the competition is clean, the game is fair and the horse and rider are protected.”

“We thank Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for his pivotal role in the passage of the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act (HISA) by the U.S. Senate,” said Alex Waldrop, President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA). “We look forward to President Trump signing the HISA into law and by doing so, commencing the establishment of an independent and well-informed central authority that will ensure the integrity of our sport and the safety of our human and equine athletes nationwide.”

“This is a monumental step forward that will help secure the future of Thoroughbred racing in the United States,” said Dave O’Rourke, President & CEO of the New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA). “For the first time, the sport will have a unified set of national safety and integrity standards to replace an outdated system that relied on patchwork regulation. The HISA will achieve the type of reforms long supported and advanced by NYRA, including a national approach to medication control and strongest anti-doping authority the sport has ever seen. This legislation will further modernize horseracing and arrives at a critical juncture in its history. NYRA looks forward to the work that lies ahead.”

“This is the day that the members of the Water Hay Oats Alliance (WHOA) have long been waiting for,” said Staci Hancock, Managing Member of the Water Hay Oats Alliance. “Since 2012 our grassroots movement has supported the passage of federal legislation to prohibit the use of performance-enhancing drugs in horseracing. The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act (HISA) brings much needed drug and medication reform, as well as national track safety standards, to our sport. It is with great pride and complete satisfaction that WHOA celebrates the bill’s passage. We thank Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Sponsors, Congressmen Andy Barr and Paul Tonko, for getting it across the finish line.”

Kitty Block, President and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States and Sara Amundson, President of the Humane Society Legislative Fund jointly stated:

“This is a blue ribbon moment in the history of American horseracing, and this well-crafted measure sets the bar high and is a reminder that goodwill is indispensable in our politics. Working together with stakeholders to get it across the finish line, Senator McConnell and other leaders have helped to put the industry on a strong path to positive reforms. With their success in brokering an agreement with disparate stakeholders, and their dedicated work in the stretch run, Majority Leader McConnell, Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand, Dianne Feinstein and Martha McSally and Reps. Andy Barr and Paul Tonko have risen to the occasion, building a broad base of support for lasting and meaningful change.”

ORIGINAL STORY POSTED 1 P.M. MONDAY, DEC. 21, 2020

WASHINGTON, D.C. (WTVQ) – In what supporters call the the biggest gain for animal welfare in years, Congress included in the $900 billion year-end spending bill that is expected to be signed into law soon a provision to ban race-day doping of thoroughbreds.

The measure is a prime part of the Horseracing Integrity and Safety (HISA) Safety Act. H.R. 1754/S. 4547 which was approved by the House this fall, concluding an eight-year campaign to end medication abuses leading to breakdowns and injuries and deaths on tracks across the nation, supporters of the legislation said Monday.

The House passed H.R. 1754, led by U.S. Reps. Paul Tonko, D-N.Y., and Andy Barr, R-Ky. by a voice vote in September, but the Senate had not taken up S. 4547 introduced by U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Senators Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., Martha McSally, R-Ariz., and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.

“The passage of the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act is the biggest gain in Congress for horses in half a century, will put the welfare of the horses at the center of the enterprise, and put the sport on a level playing field that aligns with global standards,” said Marty Irby, executive director at Animal Wellness Action.

“We don’t allow doping of athletes in cycling, baseball, and other professional sports,” said Wayne Pacelle, president of Animal Wellness Action. “It’s should be a no-brainer to forbid this form of cheating and dangerous treatment of horses in American Thoroughbred racing, too.”

The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act includes a ban on race-day doping, the establishment of a uniform national standard for rules and regulations for U.S. horseracing that would be overseen by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA).

The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act (HISA) is landmark legislation that would directly address the safety and welfare of racehorses, and the integrity of the sport itself, through better anti-doping measures and racetrack safety standards. Supporters noted the doping of American racehorses has been the subject of Congressional attention over the past five years with hundreds of horses dying on racetracks weekly, and the indictment of 37 trainers and veterinarians in March 2020.

The bill has the support of Animal Wellness Action (AWA), the Animal Wellness Foundation (AWF), Horses for Life Foundation, the American Horse Protection Society, the Center for a Humane Economy, and key players throughout the horse racing industry, including all three Triple Crown racetracks. Churchill Downs, which runs the Kentucky Derby, is the most recent corporation to get on board.

The effort continues to enjoy the support of the Coalition for Horse Racing Integrity (CHRI), which includes The Jockey Club, the Breeders Cup, Keeneland Racecourse, the New York Racing Association, The Stronach Group, the Thoroughbred Owners & Breeders Association, the Water Hay Oats Alliance, U.S. Harness Racing Alumni Association, and Animal Wellness Action.

The patchwork of regulations across the U.S.’s 38 racing jurisdictions has undermined the public’s confidence in horseracing, threatened the integrity of competition, and endangered the human and equine athletes. Enactment of the HISA will address these problems head on while helping to enhance the public’s interest in this very important industry. For the safety of the horses and jockeys, and for the sport of horseracing itself, American horseracing needs the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act of 2020.

In order to create these uniform performance and safety standards for the sport of horseracing, the HISA creates the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority, which is a private, independent, self-regulatory, nonprofit organization. It will not be funded by the federal government – the horseracing industry will pay the funds necessary for the establishment and administration of the Authority. The Authority is tasked with developing and implementing both a horseracing anti-doping and medication control program and a racetrack safety program.

The Authority will be governed by a Board of Directors consisting of nine members. Five of those members will be independent of the industry, and four members will be experts from the following sectors of the industry: owners and breeders, trainers, racetracks, veterinarians, State racing commissions, and jockeys. To assist with the development of these programs, the Board will establish an anti-doping and medication control standing committee and a racetrack safety standing committee, both controlled by independent members outside the industry. All independent members of the Board and standing committees will be subject to strict conflict-of-interest standards.

The Authority will be required to create a set of uniform anti-doping rules, including lists of prohibited substances and methods, protocols around the administration of permitted substances, and laboratory testing accreditation and protocols. These permitted and prohibited substances and practices will be developed after taking into consideration international anti-doping standards and veterinarian ethical standards, along with consulting racing industry representatives and the public. The new nationwide rules would replace the current patchwork of regulatory systems that govern horseracing’s 38 separate racing jurisdictions. For services related to the enforcement of this program, the Authority shall enter into an agreement with the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, which has a proven track record of conducting anti-doping and medication control activities for all U.S. Olympic athletes and its approach can easily be adapted to horseracing.

To protect the health and safety of racehorses and jockeys, the Authority will also create a racetrack safety program, consisting of a uniform set of training and racing safety standards and protocols. Those standards include racetrack design and maintenance, oversight of human and equine injury reporting and prevention, and the procedures for undertaking investigations at racetrack and non-racetrack facilities related to safety violations. The Authority creates an accreditation program to ensure that racetracks comply with these safety procedures, and in order to continue to gather information on racetrack safety, the Authority will establish a nationwide database of racehorse safety, performance, health, and injury information within one year of the establishment of the program.